Breaking the Mirror


The frozen waters of winter are starting to flip here in Minnesota. Above is a nearby pond – the first open water of any kind.

Tomorrow we start a weekend sesshin and in our practice period we’re wrapping up our work with the following lines from the Genjokoan:

“To convey the self toward the 10,000 dharmas to do practice/verification is illusion. The 10,000 dharmas advancing and practicing/verifying through the self is satori.”

I’ve been working through bits and pieces of the Kyogo and Sen’ne commentaries, sneaking some of it in to recent posts. One big piece remaining is Kyogo’s “…the reality of the self is practice-verification.”

I’ll be encouraging the sesshin participants and the virtual practice group to tuck that saying into their (metaphorical) breast pockets, carrying it around for a while, seeing what happens when it thaws out, and reporting that here or in check-ins to me.

To aid you in your work, this story from Reb Anderson and Susan Moon’s book, Warm Smiles from Cold Mountains, comes to mind:

…When Kishizawa Ian, Suzuki Roshi’s second teacher, was a young monk, he was sitting in meditation on a rainy day and heard the sound of a distant waterfall. Then the wooden han was struck. He went to his teacher (maybe Oka Sotan) and asked, “What is the place where the sound of the rain, the waterfall, and the han meet?”
His teacher replied, “True eternity still flows.”
And then he asked, “What is this true eternity that still flows?”
“It is like a bright mirror, permanently smooth,” said his teacher.
“Is there anything beyond this?” asked the young monk.
“Yes,” responded his teacher.
“What is beyond this?” inquired the young monk.
And his teacher replied, “Break the mirror. Come, and I’ll meet you.”


Kishizaza Ian Roshi was a dharma brother of Sawaki Kodo and Hashimoto Eko. Together they trained with Oka Sotan, a very important Soto Zen teacher and Dogen scholar in the early 20th Century, and the three went on to revitalize Soto Zen. This is flavorless talk and is how people of the Zen way thaw – Rinzai, Soto, Minnesotan, Japanese, whatever.

For comments on this found koan and for comments on “…the reality of the self is practice-verification,” I invite you to find a capping verse, either from traditional Zen discourse or from other places (other than your internal dialogue) and offer it here. Could be a line from a song or a snippet of an overheard conversation. Our job as the reader of your offering is to put our body and heart into the saying to see what you see.

I offer this from Zen Sand, 6.105:
“Today for the first time I understand number and weight.”

  • Mike F

    Robert Aitken, in The Dragon who Never Sleeps, writes: “Taking my seat in the ZendoI vow with all beings to acknowledge that here is the sacred:this bottom, this body, this breath.”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05168631752214481563 Harry

    Dosho,Nice exchange between Master and pupil.This is sometimes attributed to William Hughes Mearns, and is sometimes said to be a traditional nursery rhyme:As I was going up the stair,I met a man who wasn’t there,He wasn’t there again today,Oh, how I wish he’d go away!Regards,Harry.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04670642974899172755 BuddhaFrog

    "Meet me in the land of hope and dreams" — Springsteenhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXGNq2-S06I&feature;=related

  • Harriet

    Engineer email: direct, just the point

  • Harriet

    My capping phrase for this week is “It’s a fine line between pleasure and pain, you’ve done it once, you can do it again…”

  • Harriet

    This morning I wake, eager to sit.My daughter calls: Read with me,My husband offers coffee: chat with me,Zazen at dawn.No mirror. Just this.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12604555653201464632 do jhana

    I hope you had a good sesshin.Sometimes I don’t understand anything.I see Dogen as a medicine: taking him in the evening and getting up in the morning healed and refreshed. How can a couple of sentences give so much.Kyogo is like a dessert when one is already full.I had nothing to say. I couldn’t find a capping phrase. Then I opened Hongzhi and he told me this: Silent and serene, forgetting words, bright clarity appears before you which spoke to my heart and from my heart I posted here.Today, while visiting Stephen Batchelor’s website another passage stroke me. Again: when you stop language games, wordless concentration startsI finished my evening sitting 10 minutes ago but I’m still sitting… (add the two sentences from above)Gassho

  • http://catherinesarttours.blogspot.com Seigen

    Mel Bochner, “Language is not transparent.”This capping phrase is an old and dear friend who has come back to visit. But yesterday I interviewed an artist, Robert Barry, who was doing things with language in the late ’60s, the same time that Bochner wrote the sentence above. In a recent retrospective exhibition of Barry’s work, for example, the following sentence appears on the wall: “A great concern transmitted telepathically.” But as you read those letters on the wall you are running into their stubborn object opacity in the same time that you are their receiver. Or rather, two different senses of time seem to be going on at once between discrete letters and the force of a sentence. Words and dreams both will get you to the place where “Today for the first time I understand number and weight.”Zen Sand, 5.336: “Though the Buddha eye looks it does not see.” Look. Just looking. Don’t look! Are you looking?! Have a look. Take a look. Let’s have a look-see. Looking around. Lookee here.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05126604767083301340 Monk in the world

    The woman at the well had her mirror broken…and found what she was looking for was inside her very being…Gata,Gate, parasamgate…Alan

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15243863260042908830 brendan

    If we lift the veil and look underneath … we shall discover much emptiness, darkness, and confusion; nay, if I mistake not, direct impossibilities and contradictions…. They are neither finite quantities, nor quantities infinitely small, nor yet nothing. May we not call them the ghosts of departed quantities?–Berkeley

  • Anonymous

    8.304 The mirror of heaven has no self…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14342446261342127130 Dhyan

    This was today’s quote from http://www.DailyZen.com:Before there is feeling, Stillness is not increased. Stillness is not thereOnly when there is no thoughtAnd no knowing. After there is feeling, Stillness is not obliterated. It is not that stillness is absentAfter there is thought and knowing. This empty, aware, undimmedEssence is what is called the Tao. – Luo Hongxian (1504-1564) I especially note: “When there is no thought and no feeling…”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04670642974899172755 BuddhaFrog

    What do you see about number and weight, Dosho?Gassho,Glenda

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04878684373898294730 Dosho Port

    level


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X